Who was `Abdu'l-Bahá, and why did He come to the West?

Monday, July 9, 2012

July 9, 1912 Museum visit; Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl

Mahmud dates the following entry July 5, but Juliet confirms it took place today: 
Today, at the invitation of Juliet Thompson,
 `Abdu'l-Bahá went to a museum near His house. 
[National History Museum.] On the first floor 
there were statues, figures of animals and a 
collection of relics of early American civilization. 
On observing these objects, `Abdu'l-Bahá said, 
`From these things it appears that America had 
a great civilization in ancient times.'
In the evening, He spoke to a large number of
 friends and seekers at His home about detachment 
from physical desires and the attainment of everlasting life. Everyone was delighted."

Juliet has a much more descriptive entry about the museum visit. But she says it 
occurred on July 9.  Here's the essence of her description, in my words: 

On July 9 Abdu’l-Baha asked Juliet Thompson to take him to the Museum of Natural 
History, where He seemed more interested in talking outside to an elderly museum 
guard than in seeing the museum’s artifacts. When the man asked if He wanted to 
see more of the museum, Abdu’l-Baha said He was tired of this world and more 
interested in things of the spiritual world. The old man responded with a preference 
for the material world, as it is something known. "But you do not lose it when you 
have attained the spiritual world,” said Abdu’l-Baha. “When you go upstairs in a house
you don't
leave the house. The lower floor is under you."

"Oh I see!" cried the guard, his whole face lighting up. 
Juliet asks: "Why had the Master visited a Museum of Natural History in the hottest 
hour of a blistering July day? Had He instead visited a soul whose need was crying 
out to Him, to open an old man's eyes so that he might see to climb the stairs, to take
 away the dread of death?"

I find this story quite interesting. Apparently Juliet went back to the museum the 
next week, and the man no longer worked there. Her thought was that he had
 passed on. . . . We went there and reflected upon the story & shot videotape. 

(Sorry about the spacing. I can't seem to fix it!) 

New York: The Services of Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl
Mahmud wrote: "A number of friends were waiting for `Abdu'l-Bahá when He arrived with a paper from Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl in His hand. He gave it to us and said, `Read it. It is very interesting.' It was an answer to criticisms of one Siyyid `Abdu'lláh, an enemy of the Cause. These criticisms are themselves more proof of the greatness of the Center of the Covenant than are the praises of the friends. Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl has recorded the very words of this critic in his book.
Although that Siyyid had embraced Christianity, thus retrogressing, he appeals in his pamphlet to the nationalities of the world, even the Zoroastrians and Jews, to cooperate with him in his opposition to the Bahá'í Faith. The English press of Cairo published his pamphlet in the month of Naisan 1912. In his pamphlet, he attributes the success of the Cause to the virtues and perfections of the Center of the Covenant. Below is a passage from the second chapter of his pamphlet:
And when we reflect upon his [the Master's] work and the work of his father, we find a great difference between the two. The foundation laid down by Bahá'u'lláh did not rise except very little. It was not even apparent to the eyes of outsiders. But what has been built upon it by `Abbás [`Abdu'l-Bahá] since the time of the passing of his father, which does not exceed twenty years, is really striking. We see millions of people of various religions and diverse denominations such as Muslims, Christians, heathens, Buddhists and Hindus drawn and attracted to His Cause from such remote countries as America, Caucasia, Russia, Great Britain and the shore of India.

In the fifth chapter, he wrote: What vast genius, striking intelligence, consummate opulence and tried virtue has enabled `Abbás Effendi to attract multitudes of people from diverse denominations and languages? Even this month he received hundreds of letters from his American friends, supplicating him to visit them. They sent 1,000 guineas to defray the expenses of his journey. He granted their request as he had promised them last year, but sent back their guineas with thanks and apology, saying that it was not his custom to accept such things. Consider this great opulence which was related to me by one of his followers and also spoken of by some Egyptian papers. Look to this virtue and piety which is the cause of love and affection as is said by our ancestor, the author of Islamic law: `Be indifferent to what the people possess and the people will love you.'
At the table the Master read this paper and smiled. He remarked that according to the words of the Qur'án, the deniers said to the Messenger of God, `Verily, Thou art an insane one.' But now, according to the words of the deniers of the Cause, `vast genius, striking intelligence, consummate opulence, tried virtue' and the majesty of the Center of the Covenant have become a cause for the attraction of hearts. The preeminence and power of the Cause is established even by the words of its enemies. Today the services of Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl were mentioned repeatedly by `Abdu'l-Bahá."

Interesting, indeed!  Reflecting on the life of the scholar, particularly his role in America and particularly at Green Acre, I find I want to draw closer to him.

from Wikipedia: "Near the end of 1912, Abu'l-Fadl started to become ill, and Aqa Muhammad-Taqi Isfahani was able to move Abu'l-Fadl to his house in Cairo, where he remained until his death on 21 January 1914. After his death, `Abdu'l-Bahá gave a eulogy which can be found in Bahá'í Proofs. Moojan Momen, a Bahá'í historian, states that Abu'l-Fadl possessed a critical mind, and had a complete devotion to the Bahá'í Faith. Momen states that Abu'l-Fadl's writings "show a keen understanding of modern currents of thought remarkable in a man who only knew oriental languages." and was able to apply the Bahá'í teachings to a wide range of different issues. 

"Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl wrote on a wide range of Bahá'í subjects, including extensive amounts of material about the proofs of Bahá'u'lláh's mission. He was consistently praised by the central figures of the Bahá'í Faith and Shoghi Effendi. His papers and letters include a wide range of presentations of the Bahá'í Faith for those of Christian and Jewish backgrounds, and his concepts in the presentation of the Bahá'í Faith continue to be important today. After his death, his papers, including several unfinished works, were taken to Ashqabat, where his nephew lived; many of these papers were, however, lost during the Russian Revolution. `Abdu'l-Bahá once wrote, referring to The Brilliant Proof: "His Honour Mírzá Abu'l-Fadl has written a treatise answering the criticisms of a London preacher. Each one of you should have a copy. Read, memorize and reflect upon it. Then, when accusations and criticisms are advanced by those unfavourable to the Cause, you will be well armed." 

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